You’ve probably seen these dotted around a few places, what looks like some sort of security barrier, but wondered how such an odd thing could work. Does something rise up from under the plate, are the walls active in someway, just what does it do?

In fact, the function is pretty much the same as bollards that are fixed into the ground, to stop a road impact, just without the hassle of digging deep holes in the ground or ripping up the pavement.

Bollards, once basically a heavy metal tube and not much else have, of necessity become rather cleverer in recent years. The range in rating from simple impact barriers for light vehicles where a bollard is simply inserted into the ground, to large underground structures where the bollard is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

These bollards which I have in a number of places, such as outside St Paul’s Cathedral, and here at Victoria station act in a different way.

Designed by ATG Access, the Surface Guard are temporary barriers that can be placed around events or buildings, and were first developed in 2017.

Those crumpled weak looking plastic barriers are just a cladding, and what’s underneath is enough to give people second thoughts about ramming a vehicle at them — massive spikes.

The design takes advantage of a number of factors — the long strip ensures when an impact hits, the whole barrier has to be moved, which adds weight. Also the wide plate should mean that the vehicle is impaled on the spikes, and it’s motor wheels are embedded within the structure rendering them impotent at moving the barrier forward.

(c) ATG Access

The system recently passed impact tests, where it prevented a 7,200kg lorry travelling at 32kph from penetrating less than five metres.

These are not the only barriers with spikes — the basic looking steel bollards you see in places often conceal a heavy duty steel structure inside, with a lot of teeth to grip and hold anything that rams at them.

The big plant pots outside offices aren’t filled with concrete, but a fine honeycomb of aluminum that’s designed to crumple and absorb the impact energy.

However, these odd looking grey plastic barriers do have the advantage of being more permeable for the public and less of an, ahem, barrier.


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  1. Ciaran says:

    I remember thinking how pretty it looked by my office on Westferry Circus with all the lovely tubs of plants and flowers, and that the bollards were handy to lean on. It wasn’t until I saw the road blocks being service in the UP position that I realised that Canary Wharf is pretty impenetrable.

  2. Daniel says:

    I’m old enough to remember when there wasn’t a need for security barriers to prevent lunatics from ramming lorries into churches and crowds.

    • asdf says:

      There is still no need; security is not really based in statistical reality and is a ratcheting mechanism that always moves forward, never backward. Security is a grift.

    • ianvisits says:

      You must be well over 100 years old then.

  3. SteveP says:

    I hate to even mention this, but not too long ago, Westminster spent millions pedestrianising Exhibition Road – literally forcing motor traffic to mingle with the pedestrians – many of whom are school children.

    So not even two miles apart, we have huge ugly security barriers preventing motor vehicles mingling with foot traffic – and over by the museums, millions spent to encourage the same.

    Anyone else think this is madness?

    • ianvisits says:

      They are two totally different situations.

      On Exhibition Road, the mingling of traffic is intended — and well proven — to force motorists and pedestrians alike to be more aware of their surroundings, slows road traffic and reduces accidents.

      The barriers are to stop a terrorist attack — a very different situation.

    • Carl Studt says:

      I can’t recommend that any pedestrian count on motorists understanding the concept of the obvious shared space.
      So the cars steal our space, again.

    • ianvisits says:

      Umm, if you’ve been to the road, you’ll know that the pedestrian area is now considerably larger and the presumed road area is smaller.

    • ADS says:

      yes SteveP it is crazy! and it’s not just Exhibition Road – Bond Street has even more recently lowered footpaths to allow easy access for vehicles to mow down pedestrians.

      at least Exhibition Road subsequently installed huge blocks, so that vehicle drivers attempting to kill pedestrians will not be able to get very far.

  4. Chris Rogers says:

    It is indeed a shame that we have felt ourselves forced to adopt anti VBIED barriers like these. Even the fake classical balustrades in Whitehall are awful, but better I must admit than the horrible steel slabs along Millbank. I’m not sure what the ones on Bridge St will look like when done.

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